False bravado? Still acting like the old Tiger in a new world

By Doug FergusonAugust 8, 2011, 11:27 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods stepped from behind a microphone, thankful to be done with a short interview that felt like an intrusion. He took 23 questions, most of them about his golf, a few others about his left leg, then walked off without looking at anyone.

“That’s why you guys listen,” he muttered under his breath, “and I play.”

He was as dismissive as ever, another example of how much has changed in his world, and how little he realizes it.

He is not the Tiger Woods he once was.

Such bravado used to be accepted from Woods because he always backed it up.

On the golf course, he set an unparalleled standard of excellence. Starting Thursday, he’ll compete in the PGA Championship without having won anything in nearly two years. His agent said he once rejected 100 emails a day from companies wanting to get involved with the world’s most famous athlete. In the 16 months since Woods returned from a sex scandal, he still doesn’t have a corporate logo on his golf bag. His only new endorsement is a Japanese heat rub.

One thing that still looks the same is that red shirt on Sunday, yet even that has lost some of its meaning.

“That’s his trademark,” Graeme McDowell said. “Really, I think that’s all it is right now. What it means to him is obviously a different thing. What it means to the rest of us … it’s not really something to be intimidated by anymore.”

McDowell, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last summer, still considers Woods to be a special player. But after more than a year of finishing in the middle of the pack, or finishing the final round before the leaders even tee off, or not even playing because of recurring injuries to his left leg, Woods is more like just another player in the field.

No. 1 in the world a year ago, he’s now No. 30.

“Mystique is not something that’s measurable,” McDowell said. “It’s when you stand on the tee box with him and you get the feeling you’re in the presence of greatness. When someone shows themselves as flawed and human … what Tiger was doing all for years and years was superhuman. He was imposing himself on players just by being there.

“Until he starts winning again, he’s not going to get that back.”

Some things haven’t changed. Woods still draws the biggest crowds, tournaments sell more tickets and golf is more interesting when he plays. Among his peers, he has always been popular because of the way he plays golf and because the TV interest he created made them all rich. They love having him as a teammate at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. He is one of the guys that week.

But do they really know him?

Did they ever?

Mark O’Meara was his best friend, more like a big brother, for many years until O’Meara remarried and moved to Houston. They talk sporadically and see each other even less. Woods remains close to Notah Begay, who rarely plays on tour these days. He plays practice rounds with Arjun Atwal, another member at Isleworth Country Club, outside Orlando.

Stewart Cink was among his biggest supporters when Woods first was exposed for cheating on his wife after Thanksgiving 2009. They have been playing golf since they were juniors and joined the PGA Tour about the same time. Cink once told a story of how his mother went back onto the course after his round because she wanted to watch Woods play.

“I don’t feel like I know him as well as I used to,” Cink said. “I never knew him that well, but now I feel like I hardly know him at all. I wouldn’t say that’s a big difference. I think he may be gun shy about getting close to people, either his fellow competitors like me, caddies, the media. He’s a really private guy. But once you get to know him, he’s really good to be around.

“He’s not out here to be social. That’s not his goal,” Cink said. “He has a big sheet of goals to accomplish. His social life is not his No. 1 priority, nor should it be.”

Now that Woods has moved into his new home in south Florida, he has practiced on occasion at the Bear’s Club, home of Jack Nicklaus. Robert Allenby saw him there two weeks ago and said he felt Woods seemed more at ease with his life. At tournaments, he sees no change.

“We see him come out and practice, play and get out of here,” Allenby said. “He’s always been a big one to save his energy for the tournaments. But that’s the beauty of Tiger. A lot of stuff has happened in his life. When it comes to his golf, he still tried to keep that the same. That’s impressive. I know what it’s like to go through a divorce, and it can get seriously ugly.”

That falls in line with what Woods said in 2000 to Golf Digest senior writer Jaime Diaz, who has been around Woods longer than any other journalist. “To live a sane life, I have to be ruthless sometimes. Put up a wall, be cold, say no. If I didn’t, I would never have my own time and space, which is vital to me to achieve what I want in life.”

Even so, some of his peers thought he would return a different person - perhaps spend a little more time in the locker room, or play charity events for other players beyond his closest friends.

For all he’s done to wreck his image, most everyone on tour wants to see him return to greatness. Even though there is a new wave of players starting to emerge, like U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, it’s hard to find anyone who won’t say that golf still needs Woods.

“Tiger still is golf, really,” McDowell said. “It’s exciting to have him back.”

Cink could see parallels with David Duval, an enigma when he was No. 1 in the world, portraying a coldness behind those wraparound shades. His game went into a freefall, partially brought on by injuries, and when Duval was at his lowest, he showed a softer side and became more appealing.

Woods has never warmed to the media, mastering the art of saying very little, but with a smile.

The shield now is a cement wall.

Woods once said he never read anything, and even turned down the TV when one of his friends was playing, because the media had opinions without having all the facts. Now he reads everything. He will be the first to admit that the calamity in his personal life is no one’s fault but his own. But he thinks the media has made it personal.

His answers are more clipped. Asked last week how long it has been since his leg felt this strong, Woods replied, “Years,” without saying how many. How long since he stopped having to put ice on his knee? “A while ago,” he said.

It would be foolish to think that Woods can never get back to the top, maybe not as dominant as he was before, but still the player to beat. Remember, he won 14 majors in his first 12 years, and that wasn’t an accident. He was that good.

His was the one score that always mattered.

“You never had to scroll down to find it, did you?” Ian Poulter said.

The PGA Championship last year is when he first started working with Sean Foley. Progress is hard to measure because Woods took a two-month break in the winter and then went four months, last week at Firestone, before he completed a tournament.

Earlier this year, he kept saying he needed more rounds to fine tune his swing. So why not play more tournaments? “Because I have a family. I’m divorced,” Woods snapped in March. “If you’ve been divorced with kids, then you would understand.”

He is sharing parental duties with his ex-wife. The weeks that Woods signed up to be with their two children were the weeks he never played golf, which is why he said he could not play in Greensboro, N.C., in two weeks, even if that was the only way to extend his season.

Physically, he looked as strong as ever at the Bridgestone Invitational. He had too many sloppy stretches, not unusual for someone who had not played a full round of golf since the Masters.

Mentally? Emotionally? Only Woods knows.

“I think he’s found it difficult to pull his personal issues and separate them from his professional life, and I think it’s affected his game,” said Stuart Appleby, a fellow member at Isleworth. “His temperament, his patience … that’s been tested and tested and tested. He senses the public doesn’t look at him in a perfect light the way they once did.”

A PGA Tour official was talking the other day about the best shot he ever saw from Woods. There are plenty of choices. Woods chipped in for eagle from mangled rough on the 18th green in Japan to force a playoff in the 2001 World Cup. Yes, there was some luck involved. Then again, Woods had become accustomed to good fortune. The chip-in at the Masters when his ball hung on the lip for a full second. Or that 35-foot birdie putt at Kapalua to beat Ernie Els in a playoff.

He has gone from making every right move to taking every wrong turn.

Nothing is going his way.

Woods made his return to golf last week, and even while finishing 18 shots behind, he became a focal point Sunday evening. His ex-caddie Steve Williams, angry at the timing and the way Woods fired him last month, celebrated an eighth win at Firestone, this time with new boss Adam Scott.

Williams called it “the best win I’ve ever had.”

It was a direct shot at Woods, with whom Williams won 13 majors among 72 wins worldwide. Williams has pledged to write a book, although he has a non-disclosure agreement, as does most everyone who goes to work for Woods.

One reason Woods didn’t want Williams to work the U.S. Open for Scott is that it would add another layer of controversy to a career that could do without it. Ultimately, it turned into another sordid chapter in a soap opera that shows no sign of ending.

And to think that for the longest time, Woods only made news because of his golf.

Nick Faldo, a six-time major champion who now works for CBS Sports, said winning used to be a “foregone conclusion” for Woods. At the moment, nothing is certain.

“Tiger has definitely lost his aura right now,” Faldo said.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.

''I can't say, 'Oh, it won't bother me.' But to me, it's fun,'' Smith said after shooting a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

''To see my name on the board out there, it's not like I'm blind to the leaderboard, that was cool,'' said Smith, who is playing in his fourth Senior PGA and third at Harbor Shores - where he has made the 36-hole cut the previous two times.

''All my members are taking pictures and I know at home my members are pulling up that screen and like I tell them, going to the middle and looking down. So it probably took them a while to find my name today."

Petrovic, who was among the leaders in the Regions Tradition last week before a poor final round, said it was a little bit of a surprise when he heard Smith was at 7 under through 17 holes.

''There was a little bit of buzz, we were talking about it,'' he said. ''I heard somebody say 7 under and I said 'who is it? And we looked up, but we didn't know who the player was. In a tournament like this, you know how it is, there's always one guy, one smart-alec that shoots 7, 8 under in the first round.''

Smith, who birdied five consecutive holes starting at the seventh, played college golf at UCLA and knocked around the mini tours and South Africa for several years without ever gaining his tour card. He was college teammates with some of the players in the field, including Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, but said he no longer seeks the tour life.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


''It's just not me anymore,'' he said. ''So that's why maybe I do have an advantage this week because it's just fun to me. It's like my wife said - just enjoy the ride.''

Petrovic had seven birdies in his round while McCarron and Lonard played bogey-free rounds. Short holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par 4 12th and made eagle on the par 5 ninth hole, his last hole of the day.

McCarron is the only one of the six leaders with a major on his resume. He won the Senior Players Championship last year, and played The Players Championship recently.

''It was a lot of fun being on that stage, of course being at The Players with the best players in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world,'' he said. ''I think the preparation there and just being on that stage helped me going into last week in Alabama, and certainly this week.''

The top two money winners on the PGA Tour Champions are not in Benton Harbor. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

Paul Goydos, a five-time senior winner including the 2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Chris Williams of South Africa shot 67. Joe Durant, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Jerry Pate and Fred Funk were among 15 players at 68.

Colin Montgomerie, who won the first of consecutive Senior PGA titles here in 2014, shot 69, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off a win last week in the first major of the year at the Regions Tradition, opened with a 70.